Some Unnecessary Information:
An unofficial meilleur grimpeur prize was awarded from 1905, but the actual mountains classification only started in 1933 and was won by Spaniard Vincente Trueba. The jersey was awarded first in 1975, 40 years ago, and the colours were chosen by a chocolate company who sponsored the classification, Chocolat Poulin, who had chocolate bars in red and white. The sponsorship was taken over by Carrefour supermarkets in 1993 in the guise of Champion, and they have sponsored it ever since. Lucien Van Impe was the first to ride into Paris with the jersey on his shoulders. The rider with the most polka-dot jerseys in his wardrobe is Richard Virenque (ahem), with seven, and of course the holder is Rafał Majka.
As it has been since 2012, there are five classifications of mountains, Hors Categorie, Category One, Category Two, Category Three and Category Four. Points are awarded like this:
Double points are awarded on summit finishes.
Whatever you say about nothing being beyond classification, the Hors Categorie climbs are the Cols de Soudet, du Tourmalet, du Glandon, de la Croix de Fer (twice), the Plateau du Beille and L'Alpe d'Huez. There will also be six category one climbs, twelve category two climbs, twelve category three climbs and twenty category four climbs. That makes a total of 1570 (I think, I calculated it myself) points to be awarded.
Who'll Win It?
Well, this was the question I've been avoiding. The KOM title is almost unique in that even if a competitor is physically capable, he may not even try to win it. So, it's always a shot in the dark. Here are my best guesses:
Pierre Rolland seems to fit the bill for someone who will go for the KOM title. He's French, will not win, and has shown some interest before, especially in 2013, when he was in polka-dots for more than half the race, but losing it to Nairo Quintana on the last stage and ultimately finishing in third. I remember watching that stage, and I remember him attacking before kilometre zero on stage 20. All in vain, however. He's not going to get a great GC positioning, so the polka-dots are it's best chance of a good TDF. I fully expect him to go the whole hog. Helmet, socks, shorts, all polkadotted.
(JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
Another man who seems to like collecting Grand Tour mountain jerseys is Julian Arredondo. In his first Giro, and indeed first Grand Tour, he attacked on several mountain stages, winning one to take the blue jersey to the finish without ever looking in danger. He did it in the Giro with great aplomb, why not the Tour. Okay, he might have better adversaries than Dario Cataldo, but he's someone to think about. Hasn't shown that much this year, but an excellent climber on his day, and would probably be a worthy winner. Van Impe might approve. Just the jersey for this guy, I'd imagine.
Sticking with people connected with the Giro, Ryder Hesjedal and Cannondale-Garmin are getting dangerously close to some inedible broth. With Daniel Martin and Andrew Talansky leading the team for GC, Hesjedal probably won't find himself riding as GC leader, and will have to get in breaks. He's climbing well after his fifth in the Giro, but can he hold on through the difficult third week? Aesthetically, I can hardly imagine what he'd look like in the full ensemble, and I'm not sure if I could stomach polka-dot sunglasses.
(Susie Hartigan PDC)
Tour of Oman winner Rafa Valls is supposedly supporting Ruí Costa in the Tour, but Costa isn't a Tour winner in anyone's imagination, and I really can't imagine a situation where Lampre would be pulling on the front, giving Valls the opportunity to attack. He won on Green Mountain, and would be feared in breaks. Also, 80/1. Probably just the jersey.
AG2R have a veritable plethora of French climbers. Bardet and Péraud will likely go for GC, but maybe another French hope comes in Alexis Vuillermoz. Vuillermoz is a fantastic climber, but probably wouldn't be able to mount a great challenge for yellow. Sure, maybe he'd help Bardet in his quest for a high GC place, but the Maillot a pois rouges is an excellent way for a French rider to gain fame, anyone remember Anthony Charteau? Probably not though. He'd probably go with polka-dot shorts, but which AG2R rider wouldn't?
MTN's young South African climber Louis Meintjes is my final guess. He came third in the Dauphiné's equivalent of the competition and also came third in the biggest mountain stage, getting caught from the break and surviving with the favourites to outsprint Benat Intxausti to third place on the stage while Rolland - in the same break - slipped to eighteenth. He's got great potential, but I think the KOM jersey may be one step too far for the twenty-three-year-old. I'd
Then there's our defending champion. Rafał Majka won the mountains classification last year after an extraordinary Tour, including his leader crashing out, two stage wins and the trauma of Bjarne Riis in a polka-dot shirt. He won't win it this year. He would need Contador to crash out again, which is frankly unlikely, and probably also to win two stages again. Not happening.
(Jean catuffe, Getty Images Sport)
Some other names include Kruijswijk, Dan Martin, Péraud, Voeckler, Simon Yates, Adam Yates, Gesink and Kudus.
Wait. I've Forgotten Someone.
Four someones. Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana, Christopher Froome and Alberto Contador all could easily take the jersey, without even trying. NIbali very nearly did that last year, and that was when the polka dot jersey won two summit finishes. That's rare. Nairo Quintana won it in 2013 soon after the points were changed to benefit the best climbers, and Chris Froome was second. In the unlikely event of someone dominating, they will probably win the KOM jersey. I see two or three mountain stages going to a break, and none of them will be HC summit finishes, so the GC guys are the favourites. Also, the second-class GC contenders can't be ignored. Talansky, Bardet, Pinot and especially Joaquím Rodríguez may end up going for the KOM jersey, if they lose time.
Sorry to be boring, but it's Nairo Quintana.
(JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
If even two of the guesses even look for a minute like getting the jersey, I'll be ecstatic, it's just an unpredictable competition, but it has the potential for excellent competition. No poll, it'd be impossible to get all the possible winners on it. Who do you think will win?